ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Is your mouth watering for a cinnamon roll filled with homemade flavor, topped with a generous amount of icing, texture perfect and good to the last bite?
Then plan to visit Emmy Lou’s Bake Shop in Galva-located west on U.S. Highway 56 and just under 10 miles from the Marion-McPherson county line.
“We’ve had different people say they’ve never had a cinnamon roll like it before-from a bakery or anywhere else,” said Judy Unruh, who co-owns the bake shop with daughter Emmy Lou.
“It has a little more ingredients in it. It probably costs us a little more to make it because of that, but you just get what you put in it. We don’t cut corners.”
In addition to the cinnamon rolls, Emmy Lou’s offers a variety of baked goods, bulk foods, cold-cut meats, various cheeses and homemade smoked sausage.
Open during the breakfast, lunch and early-supper hours, Tuesday through Saturday, the mother-daughter venture attracts customers living in Galva, Canton and nearby McPherson.
But it also draws hungry patrons from across county lines.
“Homemade bakeries like this, you just don’t find them anymore,” Unruh said.
“We’ve had quite a few people coming through here on the way to McPherson to shop or work, and they stop. But we have a lot of business even from Salina, the Marion area, the Newton area and Hutchinson. I think it’s the fact that everything is homemade.”
Until recently, Unruh and husband David operated a dairy on their farm in rural McPherson. The family includes one daughter-Emmy Lou- and four younger sons.
After working at a restaurant bakery in North Carolina for about two years, Emmy Lou yearned to come home to be near family and open a bake shop with her mom.
“When she came home, we had always dreamed of doing this,”Unruh said. “But we dreamed about starting up a small little place closer to home.”
About two years ago, the Galva building owned by David’s uncle was available. Once a bakery in the past, it also was home to a variety of other companies until the Unruhs leased it for their bakery and remodeled it in 2002.
The temptation to open in Galva was hard to resist.
“When this opened up, the cooler was already here,” said Unruh, who has ties in the area. “My husband and I both grew up in Galva.”
As a young girl, Unruh used to work waiting tables at the former Koehn Patch Cafe in Galva. But her major experience in cooking and baking came from raising a family.
“I did lots of baking at home,” Unruh said.
“I always made lots of cinnamon rolls. I would bake angel-food cakes, butter horns and cinnamon rolls for people in town in McPherson. I would do that on the side.”
With about 10 full and part-time employees, the major baking responsibilities lie with Emmy Lou and employee Rose Nikkel. Two pie makers bake the pies and cookies. Unruh and employee Nancy Koehn are responsible for ordering.
The special recipe for the cinnamon rolls came from David’s aunt in Ohio.
“She had a family of 12, and she did lots of baking to try to make ends meet,” Unruh said.
“We called her, and she gave us her recipe. We’re very pleased and give her a lot of credit that she shared it. My recipe was more toward the butter-horn-roll recipe, and I liked hers better, so we enlarged it.”
Employee Nadine Unruh raved about the cinnamon rolls daily coming out of the kitchen oven.
“The cinnamon rolls are fabulous. There’s nothing like them,” she said.
The bakery seats about 32 people. A glass bakery case and retail counter partially separate the dining area from the major bulk-food area, cooler and deli window.
Every day, six large pans of three varieties of cinnamon rolls are baked and available to display in the case for sale. Each pan holds 28 large rolls, so that’s a total of 148 cinnamon rolls a day.
“That’s our normal baking-what we put up front,” Unruh said. “But some days, we have special orders for up to 20 dozen extra besides what we do.”
Customers can choose from cream-cheese iced, caramel-iced and caramel-pecan cinnamon rolls. In the display case, next to the cinnamon rolls, large muffins such as cappuccino, apple cinnamon, raspberry swirl and lemon cheesecake tempt customers.
Also baked in the back kitchen are extra-large cookies, such as chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar, M&M and chocolate marshmallow.
Emmy Lou’s homemade doughnuts, filled doughnuts, twists and long johns are usually available on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, breakfast patrons can also enjoy full or half-orders of biscuits and gravy.
“But cinnamon rolls are definitely the top seller,” Unruh said.
“And butter horns and sandwich buns are very popular. We bake a lot of sandwich buns for weddings and any kind of parties. If they call just a day or two ahead, we’ll bake as many as they want. I think the largest we’ve baked is 1,500 buns for a wedding.”
But baked goods are only half of the story at Emmy Lou’s-located in a town without a grocery store.
“It’s like a convenience store to just pick something up,” Unruh said. “That’s kind of what Galva wanted-carry milk, eggs and butter.”
Shelves are also stocked with packaged bulk goods, such as high-gluten flour, spices and decorative sprinkles for cakes and cookies.
“We get it in bulk, and we break it down,” Unruh said. “You get a lot more in our containers than you would in a regular grocery store, and the cost is quite a bit cheaper.”
Although some customers have requested they carry organic food, Unruh said they haven’t chosen to go that route similar to other bulk-food stores.
“It’s kind of overwhelming when you see all that there is out there to get in,” she said. “And any more, your Super Wal-Marts, they’re getting organic things, too. In fact, there’s things I’m going to be deleting because the Super Wal-Mart (in McPherson) has it, and it does not pay for me to carry it.”
The deli carries an assortment of quality cheese and meat products. These can be sold as is or sliced when customers want to special order sandwiches for lunch or a late-afternoon supper.
The most popular sandwiches are made with Emmy Lou’s homemade chicken salad on home-baked-style bread.
“The wheat bread, that’s a big seller,” Unruh said. “Honey is the only source of sugar in there.”
An unusual and popular item on the store’s shelves is packages of tiny marshmallows.
“That’s very special to a lot of people,” Unruh said. “We order them out of Pennsylvania from the Amish community. It’s just a specialty. You can’t get them anywhere” around here.
And if the thought of more homemade items attracts customers, they might want to look for the smoked sausage Emmy Lou’s sells by the link or the pound.
“My brother-in-law makes it right here,” Unruh said. “It’s something we did on the farm for years, and it’s just an old-fashioned smoked sausage. He gets it ready and puts it in the cooler.”
The bakery has grown by leaps and bounds since first opening. Pie sales of such favorites as rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb, cherry and apple have recently picked up. Cheesecakes are now available, thanks to a recipe Emmy Lou brought back from North Carolina. And a grill will be added in the near future.
“We’ll have homemade sausage burgers and homemade hamburgers that have never been frozen and will be served with our buns,” Unruh said.
Careful not to compete with friends who own a restaurant across the road, Unruh said she and Emmy Lou are planning to be open on Friday nights for dinner-a time when the other establishment is closed.
“We’ll offer our homemade sausage with fried potatoes, dinner roll, baked beans and coleslaw,” Unruh said.
As business continues to grow and customers come from outside her immediate area, Unruh said her philosophy is to continue to offer homemade products with quality ingredients.
“When you want to make a homemade product, it takes a lot of labor,” Unruh said.
“We could cut corners. We’ve been approached-get it frozen and get it out there. But it’s not the same. I guess Emmy and I both love to cook, and we both love to see people walk out happy with our bulk products and baked goods.”